If you should become seriously ill because of HIV, it may be that you are no longer able to make or communicate your decisions or views. Other people may have to make decisions for you.
It is possible to make arrangements to prepare for this sort of situation. Advance directives for care tell doctors and relatives how we want to be treated, and if we want to refuse certain types of medical treatment. Then doctors have to do as we have asked in treating us.
Through an enduring power of attorney, we can authorize a trusted person to take care of our financial matters. An appointment of legal representative for health care allows us to specify who we want to be our legal guardian.
We can set out who will inherit our property in a last will and testament. A burial directive also allows us to tell people how our funeral should be arranged.
Directive for care
An advanced directive for care allows you to specify how you wish to be medically treated when you are no longer able to speak for yourself – and what kind of treatment you do not want. For example, you can state that you do not wish to be kept alive artificially or fed if there is no chance of regaining consciousness.
Doctors are required to abide by patients' advanced directives for care. If there is no advanced directive for care, however, then doctors may take steps that the patient would not have wished for.
An advanced directive for care must be very precisely worded. You need to think through the options carefully before you write down your wishes. An advanced directive for care must be signed and dated by you, and city where it was made. You should check this sort of document every six to twelve months and re-sign them.
A counseling session with your doctor or at an AIDS service organization can be very helpful. Useful information and examples of these documents in German can be found at the German Federal Ministry of Justice and the Humanist Association of Germany.
Power of attorney
An enduring power of attorney specifies who should make financial decisions for you when you are no longer able to do so yourself. Possible actions might include making bank transactions, entering into or canceling a rental agreement or buying or selling property. Questions about medical treatment and the right to determine where you live are also covered by an enduring power of attorney.
With an enduring power of attorney, you can grant one trusted person a power of attorney for all your financial affairs, or grant powers of attorney that only apply to specific areas, such as bank transactions.
If there is no enduring power of attorney, a guardianship court (court of protection) will appoint a legal guardian in the case of legal incapacity.
The enduring power of attorney must be signed and dated. Before creating an enduring power of attorney, you should find out as much as possible about how they work. A counseling session at an AIDS service organization can be very helpful.
By appointing a legal representative for health care, you can nominate the person you want to be your legal guardian if you are no longer able to make important decisions for yourself. A legal guardian of this kind is appointed by a guardianship court. The court usually complies with the wishes of the person who has made the appointment; however, they are not required to do so.
If there is already a comprehensive enduring power of attorney, the appointment of a legal representative for health care is usually unnecessary.
The appointment of a legal representative for health care can also be used to name any people who you do not want to assume guardianship.
A last will and testament sets out who should inherit your property when you die. A last will and testament can be written in various ways. A handwritten note can be enough, as effective as a document drawn up by a lawyer or certified by a notary. The valid will is the last one written by the person who has died.
It is a good idea, though, to seek advice before writing your last will and testament, for example from a lawyer or notary. Inheritance law is complex. You need to make sure your will is clear and cannot be interpreted in a way you didn’t intend.
In order to be sure that the wishes in your last will and testament will be followed, you can deposit your will at the local court ("Amtsgericht") for a small fee. This ensures that it can always be found.
Over and above the last will and testament, you can specify how you want your funeral to be arranged. A written directive can specify whether your body should be buried or cremated, where you would like this to happen, who should speak and the music that should be played. It does not need to be written in any special way. You can also include it as part of your advanced directive for care. You can find various blank forms for this purpose on the Internet.
Note: putting your wishes about your funeral in your last will and testament may not ensure your wishes are fulfilled. The will is often only opened after the funeral.
If there is no directive, your closest relatives have the right to arrange the funeral. This may mean it’s not done in the way you would have wanted. Surviving relatives have to follow the wishes of a
Some funeral homes offer you the opportunity to plan and pay for your funeral before you die. A funeral expense insurance policy allows you to be sure that everything is financially covered.